Tag Archives: Nutrition

Preparing to Use a Premix

Without ingredients, it is pretty obvious that our daily food products would be nothing, as would our health if it wasn’t for essential vitamins and minerals incorporated into these products.  The decision to use premixes to add to food products may be the best and easiest method to reaching the desired nutrition label.

There are several factors one must consider before deciding on a premix, however.  The sources in which the ingredients come from and the familiarity of these ingredients are very important.  The amount of space the ingredients take up should be considered as well as if they are visually appealing and taste good.  The ingredients must be known to be either stable or non-stable and how they will interact with other ingredients.  Also, all of the options should be known as far as the form of the ingredients desired such as an oil, trituration, or powder.

Inventory management should be researched.  As far as volume goes, they may be smaller than bulk ingredients.  Shelf life is accounted for to ensure fresh products at all times and customized to the use of each product.  Incoming testing should be conducted as well as scaling and dispensing methods should be known.

Homogeneity of low use ingredients is of high value, as it is important for any ingredients used in small amounts to be evenly dispersed throughout a mix.  The easiest example to use for homogeneity is Vitamin B12.  The daily value for Vitamin B12 is only six micrograms, so for every serving it is an extremely small amount.  In order to distribute B12 evenly throughout a mixture to become completely homogeneous the options are to either blend it or make it into a trituration.  With blending, particles of Vitamin B12 are mixed in to the mixture of ingredients.  For triturations, the vitamin is sprayed on to carriers that allow for a higher distribution throughout the mix.

The provider of a premix should also have formulation expertise.  They should demonstrate knowledge in daily values and recommended daily intakes for label claims and know the sources of ingredients and their functionalities.  It is essential for them to know the interactions of ingredients and be comfortable with the regulations for the products, especially in different countries.  There are also some limitations between marketing and production that may arise, and being able to bridge that gap is crucial.  Forming solutions to reach the needs of everyone is a benefit for successful business.

A premix can offer single ingredient benefits.  There would only be one set of documentation for supplier approval which would be easier to manage.  There would be increased homogeneity with the use of triturations.  Incoming testing is a main focus as well.  With every step of processing, testing is conducted to ensure the quality and correct forms of the ingredients.  Concerning inventory management, we have all ingredients on the floor at all times, so we are always prepared for any order.  Every order is always customized.  Even if the nutrition labels are identical for two products, the ingredients could still be different due to what the product is being used for, the desired shelf life, and other requirements that are relevant.

When using a premix, it is important to know what ingredients are available to your premix supplier as well.  They must be familiar with the components of the premix and have formed a positive relationship with their ingredient suppliers.  If ingredients are being sent from overseas, their quality systems or processing may be different.  With constantly increasing and decreasing prices, suppliers may run out of ingredients, which is why they should have dual sourcing.  It would be unfortunate if a product is ready to be launched and the premix is missing.  To avoid this conflict, suppliers must have at least two sources to obtain ingredients.  Their inventory turnover reflects how fresh the products are and should be known.  If ingredients are not in stock for a premix supplier, they must be familiar with the market and have purchasing power for quality products.  If they have the proper relationships established this should not be an issue.

Further processing is something to consider when making a decision to use a premix.  Some processing of the ingredients are either performed internally or already completed at the purchase.  Some mixes can be blends or triturations, as was mentioned earlier with Vitamin B12.  Encapsulation is another option which involves either spray drying or fluid bed processing.  The manipulation of particle size is crucial regarding factors such as mouth feel, solubility, and homogeneity.

The styles of blending equipment may behave differently as well as the sizes available that may affect the premixes.  The ability to scale samples of premixes is important to test small portions of a mix and then produce the same mix is mass quantities.  Lot sizing should also a Certificate of Analysis for the premixes.

The data in the Certificate of Analysis should relate to audits, calculations, lots, reports, and be reviewed by the analyst with a signature.  The premix supplier must understand where modifications are appropriate, have every modification validated, and available to you.

Quality is a value to any food and dietary supplement company employee.  Any supplier should be approved and internal documentation should be understood and completed.  Internal documentation may refer to HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), food risk, and analytical work.  Any change in the industry must also be recorded and handled appropriately to ensure the highest quality ingredients.  The quality systems of the premix supplier would be beneficial if it was aligned with yours.  As far as raw materials, the suppliers, approvals, and incoming testing should be documented, performed, and understood.

A number of quality systems in the plant should be in place such as those under the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI): British Retail Consortium (BRC), Safe Quality Foods (SQF), Food Safety System Certification 22000 (FSSC), and International Featured Standards (IFS).  HACCP plans should be in place along with allergen controls and foreign material controls.  With dietary supplements, raw material testing and finished good testing are important to be performed.

A strong Quality Assurance team must be established.  They must all be familiar with regulations and independent of the production staff.  They should also have audits for production in addition to Critical Control Points (CCP).  The laboratory should conduct internal and external testing and perform qualified methods appropriate for the premix.  It is important that they can share these methods and prove their validation.  Proper equipment is necessary and testing that is aligned correctly.  The trained staff must provide in process and finished goods in the highest quality.  With testing, active components need to be understood as well as the physical parameters of the ingredients such as bulk density, flow, particle size, and moisture.  Microbiological, heavy metal, and other contaminants may be required.

The Quality Control team, just as the Quality Assurance team, should be knowledgeable and trained.  They should be familiar and proficient in various testing and stand as a positive resource for the customer and third party laboratories.

In the labs, all employees should have formulation expertise.  They should be fully aware and be familiar with the products, processes, and regulations.  The blend and preblend design may affect the premix and the lab should know how powders may affect the premix.  Homogeneity is carefully focused on, especially when using powders.

Overall, choosing a premix supplier requires a significant amount of research.  With the right decision, a valued long term relationship can be formed and a product can be launched with greater ease and trust that it will be successful.  There would always be access to all of the resources and market trends can be easily shared.  Conflicts can be solved and the team bond between the customer and supplier can yield an accomplished business.



Navigating the Snack Jungle

Its 3 o’clock and you are sitting at your desk working on a project for work. You are in the zone, busting out this project and all of a sudden, grrrrrrrrrowlll, your stomach rumbles and your concentration is lost. All you can think about from this point on in how hungry you are. What you need is a snack, the problem is, what should you choose?

According to Mintel, two thirds of people say they snack in between meals. In fact, many doctors recognize that snacking in-between meals can help to control hunger cravings, boost metabolism and help maintain a healthy weight. However, for many snackers, the problem is not deciding whether to snack, but what exactly to snack on, whether to avoid the temptation of the readily available, not-so-healthy snacks in favor of those that are good but not-so-available snacks.

This dilemma is often compounded by the fact that within the “healthy snack” category there is a wide range of products, from healthy to not-so-healthy munchies. For example, Mintel found that “37% of consumers consider snack/energy bars a healthy snack, yet these types of snack can range from healthy to purely indulgent”. Mintel lists Archer Farms Banana Split Indulgent Granola Bites, Price Chopper’s Market Classics Gourmet Butter Toasted Virginia Peanuts and Safeway’s Select Green Bean Crips as some of the worst offenders in the “healthy” snack category. While granola bars, peanuts and string beans are often associated as healthy foods, the second you smother them in chocolate, roast them in butter… and lets not even get started on deep-frying them, these traditionally healthy foods loose their intrinsic nutritional value. While there are several lists out there that will help you weight the merit of individual products (womensday.com and womenshealthmag.com), it is mostly up to the consumer to use their common sense when navigating the snack jungle.

The key to successful navigation is to seek out information, which only 39% of snackers actively do. According to webmd.com, healthy snacks usually comprise of enough calories to be satisfying (roughly 100), lower levels of saturated fats and sugars then similar snacks, vitamins and a healthy serving of other important nutrients such as whole grains, fiber (roughly 7g), and protein (roughly 9g) that have staying power.

However, not everyone wants a healthy snack when they get hungry. According to Mintel, 43% of snackers like to treat themselves to an occasional indulgent snack (I know I certainly do!) Not surprisingly, one of the most popular types of indulgent snacks are salty snacks, such as chips, which account for 86% of salty snack usage. Interestingly enough, Mintel found that “only a small percentage of respondents said that healthier attributes (e.g., whole-grain, organic, low cholesterol/salt, etc) are very important to them when selecting a salty snack”, meaning that “consumers are quite comfortable with their belief that salty snacks are indulgences to be enjoyed at its fullest without concern over any possible health implications”.

Conversely, the second most popular type of snack, brownies, are often packaged in small or single-sized portions. For ready-to-eat baked goods, quality and moderate sizes tend to be more important then calorie counting. However, it is important to be aware that, although they look to be individual portions, many of these sweet snacks contain several servings.

When looking for a snack to satisfy your food cravings, it is important to choose the correct snack, especially when it comes to choosing a healthy snack. While there are a plethora of options on the supermarket shelves, not all of them are healthy ones. By looking at nutritional panels, you will be better able to determine if the snack you are holding will help or hurt your ability to maintain your healthy and weight management goals.

Consumer Demographics and 2013 Snack Trends

Happy New Year! Here at Watson we are excited to start the New Year and, like you, have been looking ahead to what the year ahead will bring, especially in the area of healthy snacks. Lets discuss several of the factors that will be influencing healthy snack sales in 2013.

According to Mintel, there are several demographic factors that will influence snack sales in the upcoming year.

A better economy means better habits. Unfortunately, many believe that eating healthy means spending more. During the economic downturn of 2008, many people abstained from purchasing healthy snacks to “save a buck or two”. However, with the economy improving and disposable income increasing, many consumers feel more comfortable purchasing healthy snacks and feel more comfortable “splurging” on healthy food then they did a few years ago. According to Mintel, 38% of healthy snackers say they are purchasing healthier snack options this year. However, economic improvement is not good news for snack companies alone. During the uncertain economic times, many snack companies limited R&D spending and product launches to remain conservative. However, now that conditions are looking better, many snack companies have increased their R&D spending. This means more innovative and better quality snacks for consumers.

Women desire healthy snacks. According to Mintel, although women tend to purchase less snacks overall then their male counterparts; the snacks women do choose tend to be healthier, with 78% of their snacks purchases consisting of healthy snacks. While this makes men the greatest target segment for growth, women remain the most engaged consumers. As women tend to be more receptive to “health-related marketing efforts”, according to Mintel, there is opportunity in creating healthy snacks specifically formulated to meet women’s needs, such as calcium for bone health, antioxidants for healthy skin, and energy boosting vitamins.

Young snackers are avid snackers. While young snackers, classified as those being between the ages of 18-34, tend to eat more snacks then average, they also tend to eat less healthy snacks on average. According to Mintel, snackers in this age group are “less likely to make an intentional effort to eat healthfully”. However this segment is poised to grow, with 23% of snackers in this segment saying they plan to purchase more snacks in the upcoming year. To cater to these consumers, snack companies should focus on product attributes other then health such as energy boosting attributes that would appeal to this fast-paced segment.

Sell to your elders. Another growing segment are the more distinguished consumers, those who are 55+. According to Mintel, this age group represents the fastest growing and largest population segment, with the 55-64 age group expected to grow 31% and the 65-74 group expected to grow by 48% by 2016. Healthy snacks with “low in” qualities, such as snacks that are low in sugar and cholesterol, and are formulated with ingredients like glucosamine, calcium and vitamin E that promote joint, bone, and heart health, will greatly appeal to this group as they look to maintain their active lifestyles.

Family feud: healthy vs. tasty. As mentioned in earlier posts, while children are avid snackers, they are also some of the pickiest. According to Mintel, the percentage of healthy snacks consumed in a household with kids is lower then households without – 75.3% compared to 79.2%. However, the current focus on childhood obesity has encouraged parents to choose healthier options for their tots. According to a Fleishman-Hillard and Motherhood.com survey, 78% of mothers say they are reading more food labels to look for ingredients they want to avoid, such as high fructose corn syrup, high-levels of sugar, artificial dyes and gluten. The challenge for snack companies is to create healthy snacks that come in kid-friendly portions and combine kid-friendly flavors with parent-friendly nutrition. Portability is another important aspect when developing snacks for this segment as the majority of snacks are consumed on the go.

In addition to the factors listed by Mintel, there are several taste and flavor trends that will be hot in 2013. According to Datamonitor’s 2013 consumer trend watch, high impact flavors, such as balsamic vinegar and caramelized onion, will be extremely popular when it comes to chips and dips. For bakery snacks, different textures will make the consumption experience more interesting while sugar becoming more acceptable. According to a recent IFIC survey, 61% of consumers believe that sugar does not need to be eliminated from their diet in order to loose weight. This shows that many consumers are willing to accept small amounts of sugar in their snacks. Protein also remains an important factor for snacks, with consumers becoming more focused in the protein contribution of yogurt in a variety of snacks, such as yogurt covered granola bars and dairy-based chips.

All-in-all, there are a lot of things that snack companies should be aware of when formulating snacks this upcoming year, from custom formulations and marketing campaigns to unique flavors and ingredients to reach their target markets. I don’t know about you, but yogurt covered granola bars and caramelized onion flavored chips sound delicious to me!